Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Migrants stranded at the border celebrating Christmas

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico ( Associated Press) — After fleeing violence in their hometown in Guatemala but unable to visit relatives in California because of US asylum restrictions, a family of 15 attended a vigil organized by a shelter where They stayed. They’re just running south of the border.

The religious service in the small Methodist church of the Buen Samaritano shelter cannot be compared to the long Christmas celebrations in Nueva Concepcion. There were fireworks, pork tamales and processions where they sang and carried a statue of the Virgin Mary from the church to each home.

“Yes, it’s hard to leave those traditions behind, but you had to leave for the same reason,” said Marlon Cruz, 25, a cassava and banana farmer in Guatemala. “When you go door to door and you hear shots, we’re locked in the house.”

Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence at home will almost certainly spend Christmas in overcrowded shelters or on the streets of border towns, which are often the victims of organized crime.

The US government told the Supreme Court this week not to lift pandemic-related restrictions against asylum seekers before the holiday weekend. A lower court had already granted the administration’s request until December 21 to lift the ban, known as Title 42. The sanctions have been used more than 2.5 million times to turn away asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally and turn back most applicants. on the border.

Don’t know when the court will give its verdict. It is also considering requests from several states to maintain restrictions as migrant arrivals continue to rise to record levels. In El Paso, Texas, in recent weeks, a record number of migrants have been undetected or have been detained and released.

In response, the Texas National Guard was sent to the border this week and will remain there until after Christmas, First Sergeant Suzanne Ringle said, although agents will have time to attend religious services with chaplains.

City shelters are already full, leaving little time to celebrate and many migrants out on the streets in the freezing cold.

At one such camp, El Paso resident Daniel Morgan, 25, came dressed in a Santa Claus hat and a green sweater with Christmas decorations, saying he wanted to bring “smiles” to the attendees.

“It’s a complicated subject and I’m not an expert,” Morgan said, giving the candy. “Christ came into the world to give himself to us and that is why I have come to give others what I have.”

The Rev. Brian Strasberger, a Jesuit priest who helps migrants on both sides of the nearly 800-mile (1,200-kilometer) border in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, also noted similarities between the experiences of the Holy Family and the migrants who attended them. Huh. In celebration at the Casa del Migrante in Reynosa, Mexico.

The inn, very popular in Latin America, commemorates the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph when they were forced to move from their village to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

Four girls carried idols and other migrants – many of them pregnant women whose partners had to camp on the street for lack of space – sang religious hymns about a family with no place to live and a pregnant The woman who had to endure the cold.

“We act out the inn scene every day,” said Strasberger, who plans to celebrate Christmas with a mass at the shelters.

Even Haitian families, where posadas are not popular, enthusiastically participate in the singing and sharing of buñuelos prepared by the Mexican nuns who run the hostel.

They also took turns hitting the piñata, though the 70 or so kids enjoyed it the most.

Strasberger said, “To see children laughing is an expression of the joy that Christ brought into the world.” “There is some relief, of real joy. They are carrying a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.”

Edimar Valera, a 23-year-old Venezuelan mother who has been in a shelter with her 2-year-old daughter as well as her mother and other relatives for more than a month, said the inn helps them breathe after the harrowing wait. Middle.

“It was great, we all danced, we beat a piñata and we ate pizza with Coca-Cola,” he said. “But being here obviously makes me sad because this is not where I want to be.”

At a shelter for migrants and the homeless in El Paso, Loretta Salgado also found reason to be satisfied, even though she left her family, including her son and grandson, in Havana, Cuba, for more than a year.

Salgado crossed 11 countries from Brazil to Mexico. She died of hunger, a companion died of a snake bite, she was robbed and taken hostage by masked men. The Cuban friend who had promised to help when he arrived broke his promise, leaving Salgado without money and nowhere to go.

“Rather, I am glad that I am here, that I am free, that I am with good people,” he said.


Dell’Orto reported from El Paso, Texas, and Minneapolis. Reporters Lecan Oyekanmi contributed from Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.


Associated Press coverage of religious issues is supported by The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. Associated Press is solely responsible for the content.

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